Jim Guthrie and & Arthur Peng have a most interesting article (The Phony Funding Crisis) in the latest issue of one of my favorite periodicals, Education Next. Instead of accepting the usuaal “sky is falling “rhetoric which surrounds education budget negotiations in most states and districts, Guthrie and Peng analyze the data and reveal some surprising findings:
For a variety of reasons, from one year to the next, schools almost have more revenue for each of their enrolled students. For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year. Teacher salaries have increased more than 42 percent in constant dollars over the past half century, while educators’ working conditions, health plans and retirement arrangements have become ever more commodious. Moreover, school-related revenues and employment levels have increased even when the economy (as measured by Gross Domestic Product or GDP) turned down , unlike what typically happens in such sectors as manufacturing and retail sales, where recessions trigger cutbacks in personnel and profits.
The authors upend the conventional wisdom about education funding. Instead, they say local education funding is more secure than ever (in part because of the Obama administration’s decision to be the backstop for funding downturns — which is another story). What are the major factors that have led to the steady increase in per-pupil funding and educational employment rising faster than student enrollment? You’ll have to read and find out for yourself. Still, it will be time well spent.